Mexican casserole is a light dish but with many flavors to be enjoyed with chicken, red chili, tomatoes, ground pumpkin seeds, different birds with yellow and green chili. Also, it means a round clay or copper container, wider than deep, which is used to cook a good number of traditional Mexican stews. The manufacture of clay pots dates back to pre-Hispanic times.

According to the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Mexican Gastronomy, Mexican casserole is a term that indicates that food has been cooked in a casserole or is served in it, such as seafood casserole or tamale casserole. Specifically in Sonora, Sinaloa, and Durango, it is the name given to some homemade meat stews that are usually eaten at noon.

In the northern part of Sonora, it is used to name a broth of dry beef with green chile, potatoes, tomato, onion, garlic, and cilantro. Its appearance is reminiscent of the Chihuahua broth. Similar casseroles also exist in Durango. In Sinaloa, it is made with beef for stew. The meat is cooked in water with garlic and herbs, and the broth is seasoned with tomato and onion. The most used vegetables are green beans, zucchini, corn, and carrots.

Mexican chicken casserole recipe

Ingredients

3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1-1/2 cups of Mexican sauce

2 ounces (1/4 of an 8 oz package) of cream cheese

Cheese, cubed

1 can (15 oz) black beans, no salt added, rinsed

1 tomato, chopped

2 whole-wheat tortillas (6 inches)

1/2 cup finely shredded Mexican cheese of four varieties and with milk, divided

Preparation

Heat the oven to 375ºF. Cook, stirring over medium heat for 2 minutes, the chicken with the cumin in a non-stick pan, sprayed with cooking spray. Add the bell pepper; cook for 2 min., stirring occasionally. Add sauce; cook for 2 min. Add cheese cubes; cook for 2 min. or until cheese melts. Add beans and tomatoes.

Place 1/3 of the chicken mixture in an 8-inch square baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; cover with 1 tortilla and half the remaining chicken mixture and half the cheese. Top with remaining tortilla and chicken mixture; cover.

Bake for 20 minutes or until completely hot. Sprinkle with remaining crumbled cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 5 min. or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro just before serving. To complement the meal, serve with a crunchy, assorted green salad.

Mexican casserole as a kitchen utensil

There are many types of casseroles, but generally, they are conical in shape and measure 30 cm in diameter and 15 or 20 cm in height. Sometimes, by the shape, you can tell where the pot is from and its specific use. The rice casserole that is made in Michoacán is usually shaped like a drum with a lid. The cazuela de mole de Puebla is a very large pot whose proportions can easily exceed one meter in diameter and 60 centimeters high, although there are larger and smaller, are characterized by having two long handles and a somewhat rounded bottom.

On the other hand, the mole casseroles that are sold in Xochimilco and that are brought from Morelos, are called cazuelas, ollas moleras, or simply moleras, and they are only used to make mole. The small and medium ones are slightly conical, but the big ones, which are called cazuelas de mole para mayordomia, are used to make moles for big parties. They have the shape of slightly conical drums, with a rounded bottom, and are distinguished by having four large and thick handles, because when the casserole has the mole inside, it becomes so heavy that more than one person is needed to move it.

Mexican casserole recipe with lentils

Ingredients

1 (80g) red onion, peeled and quartered

3 (354g) ripe plum tomatoes

1 (5g) hot water hydrated ancho chili

3 cups of water

1 (192g) cup lentils soaked in water from the night before

1 (9g) envelope for chicken broth

1 (3g) teaspoon of smoked paprika

1/4 (125g) pound yellow cheese cut into thin strips

1 (110g) avocado peeled and cut into medium cubes

2 (30g) corn tortillas cut into strips and previously fried

Preparation

Preheat the oven 180C/360F. 30 minutes before preparation. In a baking tray, place the tomatoes, onion and bake for 20 minutes. Drain the chili, open in half and clean the seeds. Blend with the vegetables that were in the oven and 1 cup of water. Strain the liquid through a sieve and set it aside

Cook the lentils with the remaining 2 cups of water and the chicken broth until they are soft. Add to the pot of lentils the liquefied of the vegetables, the smoked paprika and continue cooking for 5 more minutes or until the lentils are cooked and a little thick. Serve the lentils in 4 cups and on top decorate with tortillas, avocado, cheese all in equal parts.

Different Mexican casserole pots

According to market vendors, pots for 200, 600, or more people are made. The clay pots are made in the same way as the large pots. The sizes vary, there are from 2 to 12 cm in diameter. They are used as salt shakers, to put table ingredients like onion or chopped chili, oregano, or piquín chili, which are served with pozole or tortilla soup; they are also used as a botanical dish or as decorative elements for the kitchen.

The copper pot is a metal vessel whose shape is reminiscent of an earthenware pot, also called a copper ladle or copper pot. Casseroles of all sizes are made, but the most important are the large ones whose diameters can range from 1 to 3 meters and can be up to 50 cm deep. Small and medium-size pots are used to cook vegetables and are especially suitable for preparing sweets. The biggest ones are almost exclusively used for carnitas since it is clear that a very big pot is needed to fry a whole pig.

Almost all of the copper pots that circulate in the country are made in Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán. The manufacture of this kitchen utensil dates from pre-Hispanic times. After the Conquest, the artisans who worked with copper received a great impulse from Vasco de Quiroga, who ordered the foundation of many workshops where the hammering technique was perfected to achieve the desired forms until reaching what some call the great empire of copper. Some places are popular for their clay pots and pans, such as some towns in Michoacan, the State of Mexico, Tlaxcala, Morelos, Puebla, and Oaxaca, among other States.

Mexican casserole recipe Sinaloa style

Ingredients

½ kilo of meat for a casserole

¾ of chickpeas

2 pieces of corn

3 zucchini

4 carrots

Beans to taste

2 medium potatoes in quarters

1 medium sweet potato

¼ of cabbage

1 mallet of chard or spinach

salt, bell pepper, garlic, onion, and tomato

Preparation

The meat is cut into small squares and cooked with enough water, salt, pepper, garlic, a piece of onion and tomato, chickpea, and corn in pieces. If you have a pressure cooker, when you release the steam, leave it on low heat for 40 minutes, as long as the meat is cooked.

Add all the other washed and chopped vegetables, liquefy a tomato, a piece of onion, and a clove of garlic and add them to the broth. If you like cilantro, add it and leave it until the vegetables are cooked, taste the salt and if necessary add broth.

The origins of the Mexican casserole

The origins of Mexican cuisine go back to the time of the first inhabitants of Mesoamerica and Aridoamerica, the geographical areas where these first inhabitants settled. Thanks to witnesses like Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), a Franciscan who lived in New Spain and wrote the General History of the Things of New Spain, a work that ended in 1570, we can understand the way of life and how the natives of these lands ate. Here are some examples:

The tortillas were called totonqui tlaxcalli tlacuelpacholli meaning white and hot tortillas, and folded; They also ate tamales in many ways, some of them are white and pella-like, made not round, not very square, they have on top a snail, which they paint beans with, with which it is mixed or others that are colored, and it has its snail on top, make them red because after the dough is made they have it two days in the sun or on the fire and they stir it and so it stops red. The men ate these kinds of bread with many ways of hens and cooked; one of them in pibiles empanada, in which is a whole hen.

Also, many ways of casseroles: of chicken done to its way, with red bell pepper, and with tomatoes, and ground pumpkin seeds that are called now manjar pipián; another way of casserole ate hen done with yellow bell pepper they ate many ways of chili potages: of yellow chile, another chilmolli and tomatoes, they used to eat fish in casserole they ate frogs, with green chile brown fish with red chile of lobsters also ants allude with chiltécpitlgusanos that are of maguey. (Sahagún, Book VIII, Chapter XIII, pp. 463).